Financial advisers and planners should “shut up and listen” when they meet a client for the first time to allow them to be the “hero of their story”.
Speaking at the Money Marketing Interactive conference in Harrogate last week as part of a panel session on how to deliver the perfect first client meeting, Holland Hahn and Wills’ chartered financial planner Amyr Rocha-Lima suggested advisers should start with a “blank sheet of paper and a pen”.
Meanwhile Yardstick Agency founder and director Phil Bray warned delegates that clients can meet their adviser before the planner meets their clients.
He said: “That first meeting often takes place online. What they see online will increase or decrease the chances of them getting in touch. Potential clients meet their planner far earlier in the process and ahead of the physical meeting.”
Bray warned that what someone sees online can be “absolutely vital”.
Rocha-Lima added: “When that initial impression on the website or the first phone call also sets the expectation that initial meeting becomes a chance to have an open conversation about them.”
The first question his firm will ask a client is “What prompted you to contact a financial planner?”, he said.
“The only thing we will get out of the first meeting is that we understand the client’s situation a little bit better so we can see whether our services are aligned to them. And the client can leave the meeting feeling that they are better informed about what it would be like to work with us and what the deliverables would be if they decided to do so.”
He said this gives clients permission to start telling their story and provides triggers which make them think about other things which will then help the adviser to determine the options to take.
“You’re not telling them about you. The first meeting should be about asking questions, shutting up and listening to their answers,” Rocha-Lima said.
Bray added: “We all think we know how to listen but actually there is a skill to it.”
And he suggested advisers should make clients feel more comfortable when they do come in for that face-to-face meeting.
Advisers should consider “everything” from when the client first walks in such as telling them where they can park and getting the “small touches right”.
He said: “I’ve walked into big open plan offices and everyone’s head looks up, that’s going to make people nervous.”
Bray even went as far as to say that having copies of trade press titles such as Money Marketing in the reception area is not the best thing for clients to see.
“Why would you do that? As great as these publications are it would be better to have information about client outcomes or testimonials,” he said.
The panellists were forthright about how advisers should broach the subject of fees with clients too.
They agreed that showing clients how you can help them reach the outcomes they want to achieve has to come at a cost.
Rocha-Lima said: “For us it’s an explicit conversation. If you have just spent any hour showing people you can sort out the problems, they can outsource their financial worries to you and they will not have to worry ever again in their life that they will ever have money problems – there has got to be a cost to that.”
Bray also referenced research from the Yardstick Agency which revealed that about 5 per cent of firms disclose their fees online.
“There’s no guarantee that a potential client has looked at that page. And there are pros and cons to putting fees on a website. If you are going to do it there are certain things you should have on that fees page to help the fee conversations become easier,” he said.